What Mistakes Do Screenwriters Make With Structure? – Jill Chamberlain


Film Courage: What mistakes to screenwriters make with
structure? Jill Chamberlain, Script Consultant/Author/Writer: Invariably screenwriters are failing to tell a
story, they’re failing to realize that structure is a way to maximize the
impact of their story and that they are ending up presenting a situation instead
of telling a story. So my method is a way for them to identify the eight
elements that are required to tell a story to put them all on a one-page form
and to see how structure can work for them not against them in order to help
them find the most surprising and satisfying paths for their story so it’s
almost as if new screen writers or screenwriters that’s haven’t mastered
structure or almost like recounting it’s like it for a deposition and they’re
sort of recounting though just the facts instead of actually putting flavor and
flair and the characters voice I think there’s can be resistance to thinking
that structure is gonna somehow inhibit them you know that it’s going to keep
them from finding their voice when in fact it’s quite freeing all it is it’s
you know it’s it’s you know when people study improv improv comedy is not just
people who run around crazy on stage right structure is a big part of it
understanding the structures behind different improv scenarios allows the
performers to find these interesting pads so it allows them to free
themselves so they need just a little bit of structure in order to discover
those moments but without them you’re gonna end up floundering so what is the
voice of the character I mean I think about when I listen to let’s say
Margaret Atwood or Alice Monroe read one of their stories there’s a very distinct
you know you feel that that person is real it seems like such an it’s such a
very vague thing like the character voice but it’s so important how does
somebody kind of like bring it down and make it tangible well when I talk about
voice I’m not talking about the character’s voice I’m talking more about
the writers voice that the writers voice needs to come through and that comes
through in everything all of the elements it comes it through and your
word choice in the way you choose to describe action in you the choice of the
structure and the story and the characters all of the elements work
together are going to contribute to you discovering your voice and your voice is
what makes you unique as a writer what makes it more than just plot that
there’s something unique and ultimately that’s what screenwriters are selling of
themselves is that they have a really unique voice that captures the
imagination of the reader and makes us experience it like a movie and not feel
like we’re reading a short story oh it’s the writers voice the writers going on
yeah Eric to poison on the protagonist in Jack okay
so finding the writers voice okay that I can see where can the writer have too
much of their own voice can it is it good to vary their style and their voice
white or scantily get in their own way in the beginning and that’s why in the
beginning you know the real screen writing 101 approach is tells you to
stick to what is seen and what is heard right then and that’s that’s what we
teach beginners because we want to start training readers to writers to rethink
from what you might have learned from writing prose which could be very
internal where we’re getting inside characters heads you don’t really do
that in screenwriting at least you know what we’re generally not gonna hear the
character’s thoughts literally unless use voiceover and voiceovers in advance
tool but as you become a more experienced writer you’re gonna be you
should experiment more with breaking rules and with not worrying about
sticking to only what is seen and heard and finding ways to discover your voice
as a writer so that when a reader reads you
it doesn’t violate the rules of screenwriting it still is something that
we can imagine in a movie but it brings the words to life in such a way that
engages the reader because what readers are human ultimately we want to be
delighted we want to be charmed by your writing so ultimately I think to
distinguish yourself you’re gonna want to explore your voice and it’s become
more charming as a writer in the beginning though you’re gonna get in
your own way if you’re doing that too much until you’ve sort of trained your
brain to stop to think more naturally about what is being seen and heard and
more naturally about seeing everything as a movie but voice is something that
you definitely going to need to develop along the way if you want to distinguish
yourself as a screenwriter what about getting in your own way in terms of
copying someone else’s voice unintentionally so if I’m devouring all
these William Goldman scripts and I’m just trying to really sink into them and
then I somehow end up writing in his style emulating him not knowing I’m
doing that I don’t know that that’s a bad thing in the beginning you know we
in any form of artistry write we are going to copy those whose style we
admire in a way as a way to eventually find our own voice you know if you’re
literally lifting things that that would be a problem if you are you know and
ultimately you’re going to have to develop your own voice it definitely is
I can tell you it will be irritating to read readers and I’ll tell you a
particular writer that this was a problem with is a little a lot of young
writers copy Tarantino for example you know in the late 90s so we’re you know
because he had such a strong voice and broke the rules in such a way that
everyone everyone wants to break the rules and so and that certainly can
irritate a reader when they recognize it’s so clearly somebody else’s voice
that it it definitely can have a back effect where we’d rather not try it any
voice at all if you’re gonna just cop it where we feel you’re just copying
someone else’s voice but really great writers who have very specific voices
and styles I think that can be a way to start learning how to develop your voice
to try to I don’t I don’t want to say copy but to emulate in some ways a
William Goldman style if you admire it as a way to ultimately develop your own
voice you’re gonna want to ultimately develop your own voice because the world
probably doesn’t need another William Goldman voice out there alternately what
they want is your voice right so you it should be a step along the way to find
that you

17 thoughts on “What Mistakes Do Screenwriters Make With Structure? – Jill Chamberlain

  1. First I don't really understand "what is the definition of screenplay structure ? Can film courage give eloprate view to me please ? If I don't know the structure system how can I understand this ? Kindly tell me please

  2. Structure is the skeleton. Truby (in a 2017 video on Film Courage, at 34:45 — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo5dL-8-RPo) tells of adding the meaty bits on top of structure to go beyond audience / reader expectations and provide the wow factor. This is done through round characters, rich environments, subplots, try-fail cycles, and so on. I think screenwriters make the biggest mistake with the fleshy bits (unless they are pantsers and don't plan/plot at all). Many don't know how to interweave subplots into the main plot, what purpose subplots have, and when the subplot(s) must be concluded in the 3-Act structure to complete the main plot.

  3. I believe I understand structure, but I like hitting the beat at the take off of my script – I don’t necessarily like to have people, like myself, figure out where to expect the high points. These days, its hard for me to enjoy a movie because I can now guess what happens next. I am jaded.

  4. I have been a zealot about writing only what is seen and frankly my scripts have no zing. They say what I want (at least the good ones do), but I never feel like they are a work of art. I can imagine a good director and good actors turning it into something great, but as words on a page, it is a little flat. What I heard Jill tell me in this video is that I can go beyond what is strictly on the screen since I have developed the habit of confining myself to what is strictly on the screen.

    I often say I have two good scripts and I'm working on my third. Honestly, I can't wait to finish the one I'm on so I can go back and rewrite the others.

  5. Now …..I think all stories and screenplays start with "VOICE " . If you have the own voice the screenplay will be a best screenplay .

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